Authorities in South Jersey have cleared a police officer of wrongdoing in the fatal shooting of an apparent shoplifter at a Deptford strip mall in June. The episode drew national headlines and sparked community protests.
LaShanda Anderson, 36, of Philadelphia attempted to strike officers with her SUV as she tried to leave the scene, said Gloucester County prosecutors. A lawyer representing Anderson’s family dismissed that claim as false.
According to police, Anderson was driving away from a Marshalls store with more than $3,000 worth of stolen merchandise when she sped up and headed toward Deptford Police Sgt. Kevin Clements.
Saying he feared for his life, Clements fired three times, killing Anderson.
Now, a New Jersey grand jury has concluded that the shooting was legally justified.
But civil rights lawyer Stanley King said that firing the shots was an abuse of power.
“I don’t believe that someone being executed in the street is the punishment associated with shoplifting,” said King, who is representing the Anderson family.
King said Anderson was trying to get away, not run over the officer.
Investigators do not have dashboard or body camera footage of the incident; Deptford’s department does not require patrol cars or officers to be outfitted with the recording devices.
The impaneled grand jury reviewed witness testimony, reports from the medical examiner and security camera footage of the incident.
While the grand jury determined Clements’ claim of fear was credible, King said evidence disproves it.
“I went over this plenty of times with civilian witnesses,” King said. “And they assured me, independently and separately, that the officer was never in danger of getting hit with that vehicle.”
The grand jury investigation was mandated by a policy of the New Jersey attorney general’s office, which requires all deadly police shootings be independently reviewed.